Wolfe articles on the Supranational System, with links to copies on the web.



In the early 1960s, my studies of the problems of new African states in central and southern Africa led me to appreciate the importance of multinational enterprises in the mining and metals industries -- not so much in their individual actions as in their systematic organization at a supranational level. 


My 1962 paper, The Team Rules Mining in Southern Africa, “"The Team Rules Mining in Southern Africa"The,” was the first presentation of the network of corporations that is the "team" of the title. 


A 1963 paper, entitled “The African Mineral Industry: Evolution of a Supranational Level of Integration,”The African Mineral Industry: Evolution of a Supranational Level of Integration,” is the first publication in which the development of a supranational system is recognized as a major evolutionary saltation.  I saw this as a significant extrapolation from Julian Steward’s evolutionary theory: 


“I found the mineral extraction industry of southern Africa to be organized in an intricate social system based more on overlapping membership of a variety of groups than on a bureaucratic centralization of administrative power. The network binds groups that are different both structurally and functionally, some business corporations, some states, some families, in a modern supranational structure that is more than just international. ...The several hundred mining companies operating in southern Africa are integrated through a series of relationships that focus on some of the larger among them. ... Then, in a variety of ways, these corporations are linked with governments”(Wolfe 1963:153-54).


Fellow anthropologists paid little attention, but my writings along this line upset American financial interests and the United States government, both of  which were at that time obsessed with the “Cold War.” On April 4, 1963, the New York Times reported that a leading American industrialist, Clarence Randall, had denounced me for what he called “a scandalous attack” against the mining industry of Southern Africa and by implication the entire mining industry of the West. 


My Testimony testimony before the Subcommittee on Africa of the U.S. House of Representatives (1966a) detailed some of these financial networks and urged the U.S. Government to boycott South Africa. 


About that same time, I published a chapter, Capital and the Congo Capital and the Congo (1966b), that described the ways in which what was often called the “Congo Economy” was completely embedded within the supranational system. I showed, for example, how the firm, Societe General de Belgique, “came to control a much larger segment of Congo industry than their risk, in terms of actual capital investment, warranted”(p.368). In consequence, “this Belgian company is in a stronger position than its investment warrants in the supranational system of mining enterprises that involves such giants as Tanganyika Concessions, Rhodesian Selection Trust, De Beers Consolidated Mines, Anglo-American Corporation of South Africa, and the British South Africa Company”(p. 368).


In “Economies in Bondage: An Essay on the Mining Industry in Africa” Economies in Bondage: An Essay on the Mining Industry in Africa (1967), I explained how the companies are organized, at least loosely, “in a network of overlapping groups so that even though a company may compete directly with another at one level, their higher-level supranational organization emphasizes their common interests”(p. 19). African states were constrained to use Western advisors whose counsel was “likely to be limited to the purely technical (in either law, or economics, or engineering -- and conceived in the context of status quo,” whereas the crucial problems are surely political, so that “the context of African decision-making should be oriented toward a future world system quite different from today's”(p.19).


In 1970, I described, in a chapter entitled “Tanzania-Zambia Railway: Escape Route from Neocolonial Control?”Tanzania-Zambia Railway: Escape Route from Neocolonial Control? the joint attempt of Tanzania and Zambia to escape from the supranational network that controlled southern Africa, by expanding links across the Indian Ocean by building a railroad that would give Central Africa a way to export minerals outside the control of the southern African system.  Unfortunately for them, as I warned, “the extraction and processing of ores is, in all circumstances, an interdependent part of a larger scale world industrial system” (p. 102).


Those four pieces just mentioned were essentially case histories, not so much advancing the theory of evolution of the supranational system as detailing the political and economic consequences of it, especially for African development.


Distracted temporarily from the supranational issue, I focused on other studies – the adaptation of urban families to poverty in St. Louis, the social structural bases of art in Africa, developing network models that could be useful applied to all aspects of the social sciences, and, then, developing internships as a modality of training applied anthropologists.


In 1974, I was asked to present a paper at the 141st annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, New York, January 1975, as part of the symposium "The Mode of Production: Method and Theory." My paper was the capstone of the symposium which traced human “modes of production” from primate tool use through a number of stages “upward” to the supranational system, seen as the latest "mode of production."


I developed that AAAS paper into The Supranational Organization of Production,”The Supranational Organization of Production published in Current Anthropology in 1977.  This article presents the theoretical aspects pretty well, but it was widely misunderstood – capitalists still thought I was bringing down the West,  and Marxists thought I was being too kind to the corporations. 


In 1980, “Multinational Enterprise and UrbanismMultinational enterprise and urbanism,” argues that as the supranational system develops, states are weakened while cities (and private corporations) grow relatively stronger.


A 1986 paper, “The Multinational Corporation as a Form of Sociocultural Integration above the Level of the StateThe Multinational Corporation as a Form of Sociocultural Integration above the Level of the State," presents considerably more detail on the system, but it is poorly titled, the title implying that a multinational corporation is, per se, a “form of integration” above the level of the state whereas the “form” referred to is the system generated by the interaction of multinational corporations, families, states, cities, etc. 


A 1987 paper, "Supranational Networks: States and FirmsSupranational Networks: States and Firms," that was not published until some years later, deals with a question that has always fascinated me:  Why have so few scholars recognized the supranational system as something that is truly above the level of the state? I argue that my anthropological colleagues are, like others, bound by our own culture,  traditions and narratives to such an extent that they are unable to study these phenomena with the same "objectivity" and “relativism” with which they study the institutions of cultural systems with which they are less familiar. See especially the section on "Difficulties of Thinking Anew"(pp 3-5).


 “Connecting the Dots without Forgetting the Circles,” published in 2005 in Connections , http://www.insna.org/pubs/connections/v29.html puts the evolution of supranational systems within the context of the entire hierarchy of systems -- material, biological and sociocultural systems. It expresses my concern that network analysts often concentrate so intently on the connections that they fail to see the importance of the “whole” systems at various levels, represented in the article as circles, clusters, equivalencies, etc.


In the evolution of systems, new structures are generated at higher levels by interactions among the extant nodes at lower levels. Understanding new structures is best achieved by using network models in the comparative and emic/etic perspectives characteristic of anthropology. 


“Supranational Networks: States and FirmsSupranational Networks: States and Firms,” an update of the 1987 paper, was published in Peace and Conflict Studies in 2006, in a continuing effort to encourage anthropologists and other social scientists to appreciate the full implications of the evolution of supranational systems.


“Network Perspectives on Communities

“Network Perspectives on Communities,” First made available in Structure and Dynamics: eJournal of Anthropological and Related Sciences, Volume 1, Issue 4 (2006). While not devoted to investigating the supranational level of integration, discusses in its final pages new and developing methods of network analysis that will improve understanding of the supranational system. A new version entitled “Network Perspective on Structures Related to Communities” will be available shortly as a chapter in the upcoming book, Social Networking and Community Behavior Modeling: Qualitative and Quantitative Measures to be published by IGI, edited by Maytham Safar.



A reasonable summary of a lifetime of work on network analysis can be found in the article, “Anthropologist View on Social Network Analysis and Data Mining,” published in 2011 in the ejournal Social Network Analysis and Mining, edited by Reda Alhaji and published by Springer Publishers. http://www.springerlink.com/content/y81l2x623l650575/



References Cited


1962    "The Team Rules Mining in Southern Africa," Toward Freedom, Vol. II, No. 1, January.  http://luna.cas.usf.edu/~wolfe/Wolfe1962TF.pdf


1963    "The African Mineral Industry: Evolution of a Supranational Level of Integration," Social Problems, Vol.11, No.2 (Fall), pp. 153-164.  http://luna.cas.usf.edu/~wolfe/Wolfe1963.pdf


1966a  Testimony on United States-South African Relations, before the Subcommittee on Africa, of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. May 17, 1966.  U.S. Government Printing Office.



1966b  "Capital and the Congo," in Southern Africa in Transition, edited by John A. Davis and James K. Baker. New York: Praeger.  http://luna.cas.usf.edu/~wolfe/Wolfe1966-Capital.pdf


1967    "Economies in Bondage: An Essay on the Mining Industry in Africa," Africa Today, Volume 14, No. 3, pp. 16-20.


1967    "An Essay on the Mining Industry in relation to the African Revolution,” Paper presented at a Conference on Africa (Session on Neocolonialism) at Washington University, St. Louis Missouri, April 1967.  


1970    "Tanzania-Zambia Railway: Escape Route from Neocolonial Control?" In Nonaligned Third World Annual, 1970. St. Louis: Books International of D.H.-T.E. International (pp. 92-103).  http://luna.cas.usf.edu/~wolfe/Wolfe1970.pdf


1977    "The Supranational Organization of Production," Current Anthropology, Vol. 18, No. 4, pp. 615-636.   http://luna.cas.usf.edu/~wolfe/Wolfe1977.pdf

1979   "The Emergence of Global Society: Introduction" Paper presented at 1979 Annual Meeting of the Ameerican Anthropological Association.


1980    "Multinational enterprise and urbanism." In Thomas W. Collins, ed., Cities in a Larger Context. Proceedings of the 14th Annual Meeting of the Southern Anthropological Society. Athens, Ga.: University of Georgia Press. Pp. 76-96. http://luna.cas.usf.edu/~wolfe/Wolfe1980.pdf


1982    Sociocultural integration above the level of the state. Cultural Futures Research 7(1): 9-16, 22.


1986    "The Multinational Corporation as a Form of Sociocultural Integration above the Level of the State." In Hendrick Serrie, Ed., Anthropology and International Business. Studies in Third World Societies, Publication Number Twenty-Eight. Williamsburg, Va.: College of William and Mary.   http://luna.cas.usf.edu/~wolfe/Wolfe1986.pdf


1987    “Supranational Networks: States and Firms.” [This document, unpublished at the time, is an expanded version of papers presented at the Sun Belt Social Network Conference, Clearwater Beach, Florida, February, 1987, and at the 86th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, in Chicago, November 20, 1987. It was later published in Peace and Conflict Studies, see below.


2005    “Connecting the Dots without Forgetting the Circles,” Connections 26(2):107-119.  


2006    “Supranational Networks: States and Firms,Peace and Conflict Studies 13(1):68-80. 


2006    “Network Perspectives on Communities,” Structure and Dynamics: eJournal of Anthropological and Related Sciences, Volume 1, Issue 4 (2006). 

            An expanded, version is available shortly (2011) as a chapter in Social Networking and Community Behavior Modeling: Qualitative and Quantitative Measures to be published by IGI, edited by Maytham Safar.

2011    “Anthropologist View on Social Network Analysis and Data Mining,”  Social Network Analysis and Mining, Volume 1, No, 1.  Springer. http://www.springerlink.com/content/y81l2x623l650575/